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We all need to find the right recipe to life

The Rev. Rebecca Taylor

During a recent visit with a longtime friend who’s also a writer, she talked about her most recent project: a book about her mother. It started out to be a cookbook she said; her mother was a dietitian. But somewhere along the line the focus shifted from the food her mother prepared to the person her mother was. Both can be pretty significant for us.

We all certainly have a relationship with food that includes what we like to eat and what we have to avoid and how we prefer certain dishes prepared and who we’d choose to do the cooking. And we all certainly have some sort of relationship with the woman in whose body our lives began even if we’d describe it as conflicted or strained rather than warm and fuzzy. Maybe the two are entwined in ways we seldom think about. Food and mothers. Mothers and food. Life’s beginnings and life’s continuing.

In our house when I was young a clean plate was expected. Required. Even when the vegetables were mushy and green. And when there were leftovers, they were saved for the next day. For another meal. Or two. It was just a way of life. And the way our parents provided for us. They would “get by” or “make do.” And just when we’d think there couldn’t possibly be another casserole recipe utilizing a cream of something soup, our mother would discover one and offer it to her captive guinea pigs. But she made do. Many years later I realized she loved with food. Even — or especially — with casseroles.

I recently picked up Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry’s book “Love is the Way; Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times.” I was amazed to discover his chapter titled “Making Do and Making New.” Curry grew up with family members who made do. He writes, “My ancestors took a little and made a lot. They took what was left over and made sure no one was left out.” Curry puts a fascinating spin on this expression of making do (which in my mind always sounded a bit bleak or resigned) as he says, “Making do is about molding and making, taking what is old, what is given, what is, and making something new. It’s about taking an old reality and creating a new possibility. Making garbage gourmet.” But then he takes this notion of making do and uses it to describe the way love works: “Overcome evil with good. Take the garbage and serve it back gourmet. That is the way of love.”

Bishop Curry continues this chapter with a “Recipe for Making Do.” There are three ingredients he asserts. Tradition is first because “we don’t have to start from scratch.” The second is imagination which is needed to “move from the given reality to a creative possibility.”

And the third ingredient in the recipe for transforming garbage into gourmet is God. Sounding more like a mathematician than a theologian Curry claims, “When God is factored into the equation of life, the outcome changes. It has to. Change one variable and you alter the outcome. It’s true in cooking, too. Alter one of the ingredients, or the amount of it, and sometimes you’ve got a new dish.”

Making do. Garbage to gourmet. Neither denying nor escaping reality. Transforming it. Altering some ingredients or adjusting the amounts to come up with something new. Sounds like some cooking we all could do!

Rebecca Taylor is pastor at the First Presbyterian Church. She can be reached at rebecca@warrenfpc.org

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